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For these summer months, sparrows swarm and blog

Posted 06-27-2008 at 11:25 PM by DethMaiden
A combination of sleep deprivation, vacation anticipation, and caffeine dependency birthed a monstrous idea for a blog, but the same trifecta has prevented me from coming up with a non-clichéd introduction for the damn thing. As such, I’ll just slap you with the cliché: On August 19, 2006, my life changed forever.
No, I didn’t come out of the closet or get diagnosed with cancer. I didn’t even really do anything, per se. I spent four hours sweating my balls off in the basement of a struggling photography studio in downtown Troy. And I’ve never had a more fulfilling evening in my entire life.
Let me outline the situation for you. Until a month before 8/19 (this is my importance level-equivalent of 9/11, but without the negative connotations), I had never really listened to indie/experimental/post-rock, but I went to a Mouth of the Architect and Kenoma show in Tipp City on a whim to see my friend Doug who plays bass for Kenoma. My life changed as I nodded along to the droning chords and watched the thunderstorm ebb and flow with the music, equally dripping with electricity and emotion. Rarely does one’s life change twice in a summer, but I had no idea what was going to happen come 8/19.
I walked into the basement of Stillwater Photography that August day, ready for another Kenoma show, and excited at the very prospect. All I knew about the two opening bands, Romance of Young Tigers and Sparrows Swarm and Sing, was that they existed, and my mind was fairly closed, as they stood between me and another Kenoma performance. Romance of Young Tigers blew through a half hour set of ambient post-rock with effects aimed at disembowelment. They were pretty awesome, but I was still growing impatient.
After a brief intermission and the mysterious appearance of PVC pipes, two drum kits, and a xylophone, among other odds and ends, six bearded, unkempt, barefoot men took to the stage. After a brief introduction, “We are Sparrows Swarm and Sing”, the apparent frontman began to caterwaul: “O’ Shenandoah, I long to hear you…” Soon the five other men joined in and a mountain man hymn had begun. Without cease, the band transitioned into a forty-five minute set filled with a completely organic production of sound: violin bows dragged across triangles, cellists played pizzicato whilst faux-drunkenly wailing, and PVC pipes being crashed against ceiling beams in the dingy basement. By the end of the set, the band was physically and emotionally drained, and their spiritual anguish was reflected in the faces and hearts of their fifty-person audience. In forty-five short minutes on 8/19/06, Sparrows Swarm and Sing changed my life.
Kenoma still played that night and made a noble effort, but Doug himself admitted that following Sparrows Swarm and Sing was an impossible job. Photographs and goodbyes were exchanged, but the ride home and weeks to come were occupied by the lingering memories of how fucking good Sparrows Swarm and Sing were. Only fifty people or so were in that basement that night, but all of them will forever be able to say that they were. A guitarist from Dayton post-rockers Lungs later told me that he went to the Columbus performance the following night. As such, I think he has had twice as fulfilling a life as I have had. Sparrows were that good.
And yet even the most magical of experiences must come to pass. As of the writing of this blog, Sparrows Swarm and Sing have gone the way of so many great bands and called it quits. The fifty-odd Dayton area residents who saw SSAS that night will be the only ones who can ever say that they did.
But the gods of destruction didn’t stop there; they couldn’t. Although this seems chronologically awkward, prior to the misfortunate breakup of Sparrows Swarm and Sing, the fire marshal of the City of Troy declared the Stillwater Photography basement unfit to hold more than ten people at a time. Not long before that, Troy’s only record store (and employer of the illustrious Doug, the one from Kenoma that has been cited no less than twice already) went out of business. In a few short months, the music scene of Troy went from serviceable, given the one venue and one record store and handful of bands, to completely nonexistent. I am not the only one who was devastated.
Did no one care about the local music scene? Was a town of 30,000 too small to have a reasonably arty section of the subculture? After a mere handful of great shows, our only venue was gone. After years of dedication and service to the music-buying community, our record store had died, too. It seemed nothing could be done to stop the war being waged on music.
As more months passed and the rot of the music scene began to spread to the closest cultural center, Dayton, a few brave men and women tried to bring attention to the illness the music scene was undergoing. Organically, given the grass roots basis of the organization, the Dayton Dirt Collective was born to provide a semi-nightly, all ages, no smoking, and no drinking concert venue to Dayton music fans. The result has been a rebirth of the Dayton area music scene, and while Troy’s scene hasn’t been able to recover, a crow’s flight down Interstate 75 to a hovel eerily similar to the Stillwater Photography basement provides a new home for those of us who relate better to music than to people, better to a live performance than a party, and better to the escapist dream world provided by music than the cruelness of reality.
While much of the credit must be given to the tireless workers of the Dayton Dirt Collective, a large amount of national attention has been turned to the Dayton scene thanks to some of its bands. Post-metal beard-sporting sludge dudes Mouth of the Architect are on the brink of releasing a fourth album on Translation Loss Records, and if it follows in the tradition of the previous three, it will be amazing. They’ve always been true to their hometown and played local shows before departing on the national tours they seem to be invited on all the time these days. They’re incredible dudes who make incredible music and everyone should check them out. Kenoma have worked more tirelessly under the command of Doug McGinnis than any band I have ever seen. Their instrumental post-metal manages to say more than most bands with lyrics, especially on Dayton-specific opus “1913”, about the Great Flood that occurred here during that year. I only have room to mention a couple of bands in detail, but great bands like Gathiens from Sidney, Romance of Young Tigers from Dayton, The Sics from Dayton, Lungs from Englewood, Toads and Mice from Dayton, and the now-defunct Of Brothers and the Bear from Troy have given a silver lining to the ever-clouding nightmare of keeping a local scene alive.
Those of you who don’t live in Troy, Dayton, or, hell, Ohio, are probably wondering why you’re still reading this. Let me first thank you for bearing with me for this long (it’s now 2:12 AM), and explain that this microcosmic example actually affects all of us who give a shit about music and concerts. We’ve all experienced magical moments at concerts. Sparrows Swarm and Sing were one beautiful example in a long line of magical concert moments for me. The thrill of seeing Queensrÿche perform my favorite album of all time in its entirety twice, the witty banter of Opeth frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt, the shivers sent up my spine during Iron Maiden’s “Hallowed Be Thy Name”, the lightning crashing in a window behind Kenoma as they played “1913” in Tipp City, the gentle caress of my then-girlfriend during the now-devastating “Call It Off” at a Tegan and Sara show, the relentless brutality and good-natured attitude of Mastodon. All of these moments are pieces of a much larger puzzle in my life, a puzzle made up of concert experiences that have shaped me not only as a fan of music, but as a person. We’ve all been there, and I encourage you to think about those experiences in your own life as a concertgoer that have helped make being on this planet worth your while.
Whether fifty people or fifty thousand people attend a concert, the feeling is the same: pure euphoria and a sense of community with those there for the same reasons as you. It may seem a little pretentious to apply this to any old concert, after all, who sees Slayer to fucking bond? It doesn’t matter, whether consciously or subconsciously, you form a brotherhood with your fellow concertgoers and every piece of petty bullshit that is wrong with your life disappears for a few hours, and if you’re lucky, a few weeks.
I may be getting a little long in the tooth, but I want to bring this all home. I’ve driven seven hours to see my favorite band, Iron Maiden. I’ve also driven four hours to see them. I’ve seen Opeth three times, Clutch twice, Rush once, and countless other bands that occupy enormous sections of my music collection. All of that notwithstanding, seeing Sparrows Swarm and Sing on 8/19 in the basement of Stillwater Photography in Troy, Ohio was the best forty-five minutes of my life.
Whoever and wherever you are, don’t ignore your local scene. Support the bands that are out there working their asses off for you. Donate to the Dayton Dirt Collective. Go to shows. Buy records. Do something that shows that you care. It’s all I’m asking of you.
Again, I’d like to apologize for the probably numerous grammatical and spelling errors in this blog. It is currently 2:21 AM and I can barely think straight. Thank you for reading and don’t hesitate to share this with others and/or comment on it. It wasn’t just for me, it was for all of you.

Total Comments 10


mankvill's Avatar
Dude, that's fucking awesome! Fantastic blog.

Sadly, the "scene" here are a bunch of fucking screamo bands.

I did see Explosions in the Sky in a semi-small kind of place and the intimacy they gave out was fan-fucking-tastic and I'll never forget it. I actually do try to buy as much as I can from our local record stores, too. And, even though I hate them, I'll support my friends band when they're in town. People don't realize how important local music scenes can be. But yeah, fantastic blog. A+, would read again!

...and I go to Slayer shows to bond!
Posted 06-27-2008 at 11:48 PM by mankvill mankvill is offline
ChildrenofSodom's Avatar
Sadly, Brad, since our scene lost its post-rock, it has been flooded with shitty Miss May I-look-alikes.
Posted 06-28-2008 at 07:52 AM by ChildrenofSodom ChildrenofSodom is offline
DethMaiden's Avatar
It's not that the scene's lost its post-rock, it just lost its home. That's why the DDC is so refreshing.
Posted 06-28-2008 at 10:35 AM by DethMaiden DethMaiden is offline
DethMaiden's Avatar
And @ mankvill, thanks dude! I think its neat to get perspective from people on local scenes who aren't from my area since this is the only scene I really intimately know.
Posted 06-28-2008 at 10:36 AM by DethMaiden DethMaiden is offline
ADD's Avatar
Props on writing that all up man, made me remember how much the effect of live music can really have for people and how many meaningful and lasting experiences come from it. It can be more than just a cathartic release sometimes, and your examples really reminded me of that. Sucks about the scene over there, but I'm glad to hear there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Underground music like this will never die, even if there are 50 people in an area of 20,000 those 50 are gonna be diehard to the core and will find a way to pull through for the music they love. Living here in the Bay Area I'll be the first to admit how much I take for granted the music scene here. I talk to people at shows all the time who have lived in other areas of the country and they all say there is truly no place like the SF Bay Area for music, so I have to feel extremely lucky and take advantage of it as much as I can, though the other side of it is that it can be extremely overwhelming with the endless sea of bands and shows happening all the time which leads to apathy towards show-going sometimes for me. It all comes down to dedication though and how much you want to go out and support the bands, which I lag on at times because there's so many other fun things to do that don't require throwing down gas money and gig money and spending all that time an effort to get what you know you're pretty much gonna be getting already. Now that I'm gonna be going away to college in LA though and I won't have a car I'm sure I will miss going to shows and regret the gigs I missed out on while I lived up here just because I'd rather being doing something else that night. The LA area definitely has a comparable amount of gigs going on, and of course great music scenes, but logistically it'll be tough for me to get out to as many shows as I might like to, and that's only if I really start feeling the need to get into it again. I guess it's just cuz I'm a little jaded of rock/metal concerts these days, especially the small ones, cuz once you've done it enough times you just don't really feel like driving out to the shits of whatever city and then stand around between bands/endure bands that suck to wait for the one you like, and finally get all sweaty with a bunch of degenerates then have to drive home all tired and gross I'll make an effort to see certain bands that I really love, but for the most part I think I'm over just heading out to catch a band I moderately dig just cuz there's nothing else to do that night. There's only a few bands who tour and play regularly whom I haven't seen yet that I'd really love to see anyways, and I know when I'm older I'll still probably get the chance to see them. Well dude great read, and I wish I could've seen Sparrows at some point, too bad they broke up Keep the music alive
Posted 06-28-2008 at 02:39 PM by ADD ADD is offline
hot_turkey_ed's Avatar
I need to figure a way to get blog entries directly on the front page.
Posted 06-28-2008 at 02:40 PM by hot_turkey_ed hot_turkey_ed is offline
EvilCheeseWedge's Avatar
Dang dude, I live in the wrong part of Ohio.

Although, I fucking hate Troy. Did I tell you about the time I got run off the road there and had to spend $125 to get towed? It was gay. So were the cops.

Back to your entry though... well written. I wish we had a music scene like that here. Toledo is obviously a much larger town, but the noise of a few bands drowns out the rest, and thanks to shitty promoters and venues, most smaller bands that want stage time essentially pay to make these businesses money, and for what, 20 minutes of stage time?

Anyways, let me know when some good shows are happening down there some time. I'd like to come down there, maybe with my friend/vocalist and check it out, sounds like an experience.
Posted 06-30-2008 at 01:45 PM by EvilCheeseWedge EvilCheeseWedge is offline
SomewhereInTime72's Avatar
This makes me feel guilty for being ignorant of a local music scene.

New York is big enough that the music scene here is probably mostly... not-local , what with it being a place that everyone fucking goes to.
Posted 06-30-2008 at 07:16 PM by SomewhereInTime72 SomewhereInTime72 is offline
DethMaiden's Avatar
Hey Jim, you should come to the Dayton Dirt Collective space on July 26th and see Mouth of the Architect. We can hang out in Dayton before the gig if you decide to come, let me know.

Also, MOTA shows give you a good taste of what the Dayton scene's local shows are usually like.
Posted 07-12-2008 at 11:28 AM by DethMaiden DethMaiden is offline
Props man that was great! Thanks.. It makes me want to support more local guys, just wish I had more in my area or knew of more... Thanks again
Posted 01-31-2013 at 07:25 AM by btsinger btsinger is offline
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